Actors Theatre of Louisville opened Sam Shepard’s “True West” last night. Directed by Obie Award-winning playwright and director Adam Rapp (“Finer Noble Gases,” “The Edge of Our Bodies,”), “True West” is a viciously funny and tragic portrayal of two brothers testing the boundaries of love, resentment and civilization.Shepard is one of American theater’s most intense and emotionally ferocious playwrights, and as a playwright and director, Rapp is unflinchingly brave and unlikely to pull punches. This production follows through on that promise—the actors start out tense and go full-tilt to feral, and the result is utterly engrossing, raw and ultimately sympathetic. The production runs an hour and 40 minutes with no intermission, a wise choice because the tension and momentum are allowed to build forcefully to the savage denouement without a break.Ivy League-educated Austin (Nate Miller) is house-sitting for his vacationing mother (Emily McDonnell) while working on the screenplay that will save his career. Out of nowhere, older brother Lee (William Apps) crashes Austin’s sanctuary and begins to unravel Austin’s long-practiced self-control. Lee is a drifter, a thief and a heavy drinker, and in the first scene it’s hard to imagine the two are brothers. By the end, they are clearly cut from the same cloth, less Cain and Abel than shadow selves, determined to strangle the life out of either the better or worse part of their shared nature.Both Apps and Miller turn in powerful, brutal performances as they slowly strip their characters down to bare animal bones by the end of the show. Those who saw Miller earlier in the season as the irrepressible Mercutio in “Romeo and Juliet” will especially enjoy how Austin begins the play, moving with a practiced wariness around Apps, who is nothing short of a wild man from the first line.As the play unfolds, with Lee pitching his own screenplay idea to Austin’s producer Saul (Connor Barrett) and winning, we see Lee’s natural charisma rise and his appeal to Austin as a man who charts his own destiny and takes what he wants becomes dangerously apparent. And when Saul decides that Austin’s own project hinges on his willingness to write Lee’s true-life Western, Austin becomes undone as Lee attempts to pull himself together, and the real blurring between selves begins.Looking at artistic director Les Waters’ artistic programming so far reveals some common threads beyond “love,” which Waters declared the theme of the season. Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet,” Eugene O’Neill’s “Long Day’s Journey Into Night” and “True West” are all family tragedies with the adult children suffering the after-effects of a lifetime of emotional neglect. And while the alcohol abuse that plays front and center in O’Neill’s and Shepard’s plays is not necessarily a main pillar of “Romeo and Juliet,” director Tony Speciale lifted it up in an indictment of a Verona where the party culture produces adults too enamored with image and good times to notice their children in distress.This deliberate thematic through-line could be attributed to Waters’ academic background—he’s the former head of University of California San Diego’s graduate directing program, and ticket holders are getting the equivalent of a meaty, season-long seminar this year—and it could signal that future seasons will be compiled with an extra layer of curation beyond the expected quality and variety audiences have come to expect from Actors. “True West” feels like the direct descendant of “Long Day’s Journey” that it is—the younger brother has the chance to escape the sucking hole of his family’s alcoholic burnout, while his older brother follows in dad’s tragic footsteps. In O’Neill’s play we see the entire family dynamic, while Shepard lasers in on the brothers, giving Austin and Lee the privacy to tear each other’s deep wounds apart.Shepard renders “True West” in a realism far less heightened than its siblings "Buried Child" and "Curse of the Starving Class," though the particular reality Shepard creates in the house is one that is still darkly comic and utterly heartbreaking. And though he can’t resist a surreal abundant object (shucked corn, artichokes), in “True West” the toasters that end up lining this stage are the result of a direct narrative cause-and-effect.Scenic designer Andromache Chalfant enveloped the Bingham stage in plexiglass walls, which the audience can see through but not permeate. This is a practical move—Miller and Apps throw each other around with abandon, and the walls mean there’s no splatter or shove zone in the first two rows. But it also creates an atmosphere of confinement, and the actors’ voices sound slightly different, like the audience is intimately and clearly eavesdropping on a scene meant to be private. Christian Frederickson’s sound design incorporates the swell of epic cinematic scores, but the compositions are inflected with touches of dissonance that nod to the unresolved tensions on stage.“True West” runs in the Bingham Theatre through December 9.
Four Kentucky universities will begin using a standardized financial aid letter aimed at helping students and parents better understand the costs of higher education.The U.S. Department of Education announced Thursday that the University of Kentucky, Eastern Kentucky University, Bellarmine University and Louisville's University of Phoenix campus have agreed to use the “Financial Aid Shopping Sheet.”The standardized letter is an initiative of the Obama administration and is designed to make it easier to compare costs among institutions.The four Kentucky schools are among nearly 500 colleges and universities nationwide who will use the letter during next school year.It includes the cost of one year of school, net costs after grants and scholarships are calculated and potential monthly payments for loans after graduation.
The Louisville Metro Council has passed rules that could limit full-council debate on proposed ordinances with a simple majority vote.Councilman Brent Ackerson, D-26, introduced the change this week. It was quickly dismissed by Republicans as being restrictive on the minority. The change, would allow a majority of council members to call for debate to end after 90 minutes.Thursday night’s 15 to 9 vote was mainly along party lines in the Democratic controlled council.But Democratic councilman Tom Owen, D-8, voted with the minority, and points to debate earlier this year around the city’s landmarks ordinance, which wasn’t divided along party lines.“Unless you protect the right of the minority on an issue to fully express themselves and to probe the issue that might lead to amendments, I just think its good policy," he said.The Courier-Journal's Dan Klepal reported this week that some Democrats argue that the move could save taxpayers money and say most of the debate should take place on the committee level.In a written statement Thursday night, Republicans denounced the decision and say it would silence the minority voice.
Jefferson County Public Schools’ elementary showcase will be held Saturday at the Kentucky International Convention Center.The annual event allows parents and students to meet with staff and be introduced to various programs and schools where they’re eligible to apply.Attendees will also have a chance to ask transportation and student assignment questions.This year, elementary parents will be choosing from schools in one of 13 regional clusters throughout the district. The smaller clusters were approved by the JCPS board this year. They provide parents fewer school choices, but it also means less travel time for nearly 2,000 students.JCPS officials moved the application period up to give the district and parents more time to adjust to student assignment changes that take effect during the 2013-2014 school year.Parents may begin applying online or in-person next Monday. Applications for all grade levels will be accepted until January 11.Click here to see a copy of the "Choices" guide provided by JCPS.The showcase runs from 10 am to 3 pm. To see more information visit wfpl.org and search “education.”
Jeffersonville Mayor Mike Moore has filed a petition in Clark Circuit Court this week alleging that the city council has infringed on his statutory authority.In previous weeks the council tried to move the communications director position away from the mayor’s authority. Before the measure could be voted on Moore announced this week his decision to outsource communications to a private company.“I think it’s a smart move, a good move and there’s certainly no political fall out from this," he said.The council’s move would have allowed the city clerk to oversee the communications director, but Moore contends that office isn’t allowed to add such jobs.Moore and the council have been at odds since being elected last year. However, he said his decision to outsource communications was not political.
As part of a proposed settlement with environmental groups, St. Louis-based Patriot Coal has agreed to phase out mountaintop removal mining at several of its mines in West Virginia, saying the controversial mining practice isn’t in the company’s best interest.Under previous settlements, Patriot was required to install treatment technology at two of its coal mines to control selenium and bring the effluent into compliance with its set limits. (Selenium is a naturally-occurring element that ends up in rivers and streams when rock and soil from mountaintop removal sites are discarded. In small amounts, it is harmless, but some studies have found that it is toxic to aquatic life and humans in larger amounts.)The company was facing deadlines to comply in 2013, but filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in July. This new agreement was reached after Patriot sought to extend the deadlines.The settlement gives Patriot more time to comply with the deadlines. But in return, the company agreed to relinquish several of its 404 permits for sites in West Virginia. 404 permits are granted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and are necessary for valley fills—a technique used in large scale surface mining. Patriot will continue work on a metallurgical coal surface mine where permits are pending.Essentially the agreement means the company will phase out its existing surface mining operations and never seek new permits for large-scale surface mines. This will likely involve eventual layoffs in Appalachia, but those wouldn't be immediate and the company couldn't say how many people would be affected.According to its website, Patriot has mines in West Virginia, Kentucky, Illinois, Ohio and Missouri. The deal requires the company to cut the amount of coal it gets from surface mines to 3 million tons annually by 2018. Last year, 7.7 million tons of the company’s production came from surface mines.Patriot CEO Ben Hatfield read the following statement in court: “Patriot Coal has concluded that the continuation or expansion of surface mining, particularly large scale surface mining of the type common in central Appalachia, is not in its long term interests. Today’s proposed settlement commits Patriot Coal to phase out and permanently exit large scale surface mining and transition our business primarily toward underground mining and related small scale surface mining. Patriot Coal recognizes that our mining operations impact the communities in which we operate in significant ways, and we are committed to maximizing the benefits of this agreement for our stakeholders, including our employees and neighbors. We believe the proposed settlement will result in a reduction of our environmental footprint.”Patriot has two underground mines in Western Kentucky. It has one surface mine there too, but the company announced it would close that mine earlier this month. But attorney Derek Teaney of Appalachian Mountain Advocates says the settlement could have wider implications for the coal industry.“I would certainly hope that other surface mining entities are coming to the same conclusion, that surface mining coal and its environmental consequences are just far too expensive and it’s time to stop doing it,” he said.Third District Congressman John Yarmuth also issued a statement on the settlement, and called for federal action.“This agreement is a clear admission of the dangers of mountaintop removal coal mining and a key victory for the Appalachian community. I commend Patriot Coal for acknowledging the destructive impact of mountaintop removal and for taking steps to protect the communities where it operates. An industry leader finally recognizing that it can be successful without employing this devastating practice is significant progress. Now it’s time for Congress to step up and enact legislation protecting all of Appalachia.”The settlement still has to be approved, both by federal court and bankruptcy court.
Thanksgiving is a week away, and I’m already tired.There are groceries to buy, pies to make, outfits to iron, advertisements to review. I could’ve sworn that the Thanksgivings of my childhood only lasted a day. Now, it seems like this holiday has transformed into a marathon of planning, cooking, eating and shopping.Fortunately, there are resources throughout Louisville to get me and the other procrastinators and overachievers through this demanding time.Where to buy your Thanksgiving groceries/foodThe Root Cellar, a retail store with a focus on local, farm-raised produce, meat and dairy products, has just opened a second location in Germantown. Not only can you buy fresh vegetables for homemade side dishes, but you can also order a pasture-raised turkey. Call the Germantown location at (502) 618-0663 or the Old Louisville location at (502) 742-9670 to order a bird.Not into cooking? You can get a catered, Thanksgiving meal with a majority of local ingredients from Farm to Fork Catering. This caterer offers a variety of soups, sides and desserts, but you’re on your own for the turkey. But remember, you only have until Friday, Nov. 16 at noon to place your order. I can’t make a pie crust to save my life. Fortunately, Sweet Surrender Dessert Café is taking orders for Thanksgiving desserts. They offer selections that include everything from classics like apple pie to a fancier fare like white chocolate mousse torte. You can call them at (502) 899-2008.No matter how much you plan, things could go wrong on the big day. The turkey might not thaw in time. The sweet potatoes might burn. The apple pie could explode. Just in case you need a Plan B, two restaurants in The Brown Hotel will welcome you on Thanksgiving. The English Grill will host a Thanksgiving dinner that includes an appetizer buffet, a seasonal entrée and a selection of desserts for $58 per person. J. Graham’s Café has a Thanksgiving buffet for $34 per person.Where to get your Black Friday dealsA millionaire with a soft spot for food writers couldn’t get me into a mall or near a big-box store on Black Friday. But Frankfort Avenue is hosting a Black Friday Trolley Hop that seems more my speed. From 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m., the trolleys will allow shoppers to visit local businesses and still get some deals. Shoppers can pick up a coupon sheet with discounts at participating businesses at the following locations:A Reader’s Corner BookstoreCrescent Hill Trading Co.D&W SilksLexie’s Trading PostMargaret’s ConsignmentSisterDragonflySouth Bayly BoutiqueThe Comfy CowRestaurants and other eateries along the trolley hop route will offer specials if you’re more interested in a hot food that a day of shopping in the cold.Boombozz Pizza on Frankfort Avenue will have $5 lunch specials and two for $20 dinner specials. The Wine Rack will offer a wine and cheese sampling 5-8 p.m. and The Comfy Cow on Frankfort Avenue will have double points for rewards card members.
Chicago-based Walsh Construction has been named the best option to design and construct Kentucky's portion of the Ohio River Bridges Project, which includes building a new I-65 bridge and reworking Spaghetti Junction.Walsh Construction's $971 million bid was the best financial value and the group says it can finish the project in 1,380 days, or by Dec. 10, 2016.The state's awards committee will meet on Nov. 26th to review the bid in detail and it could--at that time--announce the decision to accept the proposal.From earlier today:The group likely to enter into a contract with Kentucky for its portion the Ohio River Bridges Project will be announced this afternoon.Kentucky is responsible for building a new I-65 Bridge and reworking Spaghetti Junction. The $2.6 billion project is being split with Indiana, which is responsible for building a new East End Bridge.Kentucky Transportation Cabinet spokesman Chuck Wolfe says this afternoon the bids from three contractor groups will be publicly displayed and there will be an apparent winner of the $1.3 billion contract."I say apparent because as is the case with all of our highway construction bid letting, the bids have to be evaluated, have to be examined," he said.The three groups, which consist of several individual contractor companies, will receive a score from 0 to 100, said Wolfe.Up to 25 percent of the score is on the group’s technical proposal. Five percent is based on using disadvantaged business enterprises, like women or minority-owned businesses, and up to 70 percent will depend on the price proposal including how many days it takes to complete the project—which can at most be 1,947 days, said Wolfe.Officials could take up to 90 days to announce an official contract with one of the three groups bidding, he said.Indiana officials said they’ll announce their state's preliminary winner Friday morning.The Indiana group tentatively awarded the contract must go through a similar approval process before being awarded a contract, including legislative approval and public hearings.The states have divided the cost and work of the project, but both are using different approaches to building and managing their portions.
A report released Thursday by Washington-based Data Quality Campaign shows Kentucky has made progress in using data to improve student achievement.The “Data For Action 2012” report touts Kentucky as a leader for its longitudinal data system, which refers to data that can be tracked from kindergarten to career.Kentucky’s P-20 Data Collaborative—a joint effort by the Kentucky Department of Education and the state’s Council on Post-Secondary Education—provides high school feedback reports, which executive director of Data Quality Campaign Aimee Guidera says gives good feedback to the community regarding where students go after high school, said.Kentucky meets six of 10 categories DQC uses to determine effective use of data to improve student achievement. Last year, the commonwealth met two.What Guidara said Kentucky needs to improve upon is educating teachers and principals on how to use the data that’s available.“It’s really not only about making sure they have the technical skills to know how to access and use this data, but in addition its making sure we’re creating conditions and building a culture that really supports and nurtures the use of data,” she said.The report further shows Kentucky has done well at providing parents access to student-level data.
The University of Louisville has announced a new award for game-changing work in renewable energy and energy efficiency.The Leigh Ann Conn Prize for Renewable Energy is named after the late daughter of two of the major supporters of the U of L’s Conn Center for Renewable Energy Research. It’s intended to recognize innovative work that will likely have a global effect, and carries a $50,000 award.From the news release:Nominations will be judged on factors such as economic effect, level of challenge, originality, creativity, scientific merit, commercialization and global impact on energy use and demand reduction. Organizers encourage nominations from scientists, entrepreneurs, engineers, technologists, professional groups, publishers and university leaders.The winner will be announced next fall, and will give a public talk on the winning project. Nominations are due March 1. For more information, click here.
The politics of ordering a pizza for Friday's dinner just got significantly more complicated than the usual arguments over toppings.In response to criticism of Papa John's chief executive John Schnatter's comments criticizing the Affordable Care Act, Freedomworks -- the conservative organization closely tied with the Tea Party -- issued a statement Thursday urging people to make Friday "National Papa John's Appreciation Day."The day of support for the Louisville-based pizza chain was begun by Reboot USA. And, of course, it has a Facebook page. There, supporters are urged to:1. Like Papa John’s on Facebook2. Change your Facebook avatar to the Papa John’s logo on Friday3. Have a pizza on Friday! Take a picture of yourself and share on Facebook, as well as on Twitter with #IStandWithPapaJohns4. If there is not a Papa John’s near you, simply tweet your support with the above hashtagLast week, Schnatter was quoted by a Naples newspaper saying that some Papa John's franchisees would likely cut hours to keep from having to offer healthcare to workers. In August, Schnatter said the Affordable Care Act -- often called Obamacare -- would cause an increase in pizza prices."If Obamacare is in fact not repealed, we will find tactics to shallow out any Obamacare costs and core strategies to pass that cost onto consumers in order to protect our shareholders best interests," Schnatter said at the time during a conference call.Here's what Freedomworks said Thursday, as it urged Obamacare critics to make their Friday night dinner plans early:"There was the expected liberal backlash. As has become routine for those who oppose anything related to Obama, Schattner was accused of racism. He was also painted as a wealthy man who was willing to hurt workers for his own bottom line or simply to be anti-Obama."Freedomworks noted the long lines at Chick-fil-a restaurants across the nation this summer when a similar appreciation day was created for the chicken chain, after its chief executive was criticized for his comments on gay marriage.A Papa John's spokeswoman did not immediately return a telephone message and e-mail from WFPL seeking comment. We'll update when she gets back to us.
Ashley Judd is the most discussed potential Democratic candidate to challenge U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell' for his seat in 2014, but not all Kentucky Democratic statewide officers are supporting the idea.Auditor Adam Edelen said he'll be encouraging and supporting Alison Lundergan Grimes, the Kentucky secretary of state, for the 2014 senate race -- because of Grimes' focus on state, not national, issues.“I think she’s a great candidate, she’s someone who draws a fantastic contrast with Mitch McConnell and she’s a great campaigner and has an outstanding network," Edelen said of Grimes.To date, Judd's possible candidacy has received glowing remarks from Rep. John Yarmuth, the only Democrat in the Kentucky’s federal delegation.But many activists are pointing to her stances against mountaintop removal -- and on coal mining in general -- as major liabilities in a hypothetical race against McConnell. Those include 2009 appearance at an anti-mountaintop removal rally on the state Capitol steps. The critics of a Judd candidacy also point to the fact that Judd currently does not reside in Kentucky, but instead in neighboring Tennessee. Another potential Democratic candidate to run for McConnell's seat is Matthew Barzun, a former ambassador and fundraiser for President Barack Obama.Grimes was the leading vote-getter in the 2011 statewide elections and her family has close ties with former President Bill Clinton, lending the opportunity for the former president to hit the campaign trail with Grimes should she run. Clinton was the last Democrat to win Kentucky in a presidential election.Edelen said he hasn't had serious conversations with Grimes about running against McConnell.“Not anything serious and nothing more than in passing, but Alison and I enjoyed campaigning a lot together last year, I think she would be an outstanding candidate and if she goes I look forward to supporting her,” Edelen said.So far, Grimes has been non-committal about running in 2014.
This week on our audio diary series "The Big Break," Louisville Ballet trainee Claire Horrocks sees the cast list for "The Nutcracker" and learns her new choreography for the familiar show. Actors Theatre apprentice Samantha Beach sits in on rehearsal for "True West," where she discovers a hidden talent, and Kentucky Opera studio artist Brad Raymond takes "Tosca" on the road.Learn more about our audio diarists, who report in every Thursday on life in Louisville's performing arts companies.
Kentucky author, farmer and environmentalist Wendell Berry was on The Diane Rehm Show yesterday to talk about his new book “A Place in Time.” It’s a collection of 20 stories about life in the fictional small town of Port William. Besides discussing and reading from the book, Berry also talked about the relationship between a land and people, and his views on energy and the environment.Here are some excerpts.On the ties between a land and its people:“The great mistake that we make is when we assume that the land can be abused to improve the people, or that the people can be abused to improve the land. I learned a long time ago from a coalfield organization that had come up as strip mining began in eastern Kentucky and other places, it was called the Appalachian Group to Save the Land and the People. And from that time on, this was in the mid-60s, I’ve always in my thinking, coupled the land and the people as being ultimately one thing in the sense that they share one fate.”On the balance between energy needs and preserving the environment:“The assumption is that the need is great, and the need as I understand it, as they’re thinking about it, is that we need above all, above everything to keep the motors running in the interest of speed, comfort and convenience. In other words, we don’t want to change our habits in those ways. That we will then sacrifice both the land and the people in order to achieve that. My thinking about that starts with the assumption that to do permanent damage to the ecosphere is wrong. Absolutely wrong. And that when these extraction enterprises, to produce fuel, destroy permanently parts of the world, that’s wrong. There’s no excuse for it. And for that reason, I’m not taking anybody very seriously who’s talking about energy who isn’t talking about rationing.”On energy use:“I think if we had a limitless supply of clean, cheap energy, we would wear the world out driving on it and using it in other violent ways.”On the effects of the coal industry on the land and people of Kentucky:“And the behavior of the coal industry in the so-called coalfields of eastern Kentucky demonstrates to me that corporations cannot be depended on to observe any limits in their relationship either to the land or the people.”On his chosen vocation:“I would not like anybody to assume from what I’ve written that I think they ought to go become a farmer. That can lead to a whole variety of troubles. What I would hope, my ideal response is that people would begin from the thoughts I’ve had to think for themselves about their responsibilities. And that can be done in the city or in the country.”You can listen to the full interview here.